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Reader Forum: The green side of optimization

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reader Forum section. In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but maintain some editorial control so as to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: [email protected] or [email protected]
“Going green” is always popular, especially now that there is social pressure to be environmentally friendly and fuel prices are at their highest levels in two years. Although energy fees account for only a small percentage of overall mobile operators’ expenses, the current pressure on average revenue per user is making operators keen to reduce energy costs.
Last November, the GSMA launched their Mobile Energy Efficiency Network Benchmarking Service to encourage operators to lower their energy consumption. The initiative has been well received, with 20 operators signing up that together manage 150 networks across 100 countries, accounting for 40% of global mobile subscribers.
There are active discussions amongst players in the mobile industry globally on how to reduce energy needs by deploying solar, wind, or sustainable bio-fuels. These changes are essential as part of operators’ long term strategy focusing on keeping energy costs under control. However, there are other proven measures that can have a more immediate impact. Improved network design and optimization can reduce energy requirements significantly, speeding up the process of “going green.”
High costs of powering remote locations
The number of people using mobile phones, around 3 billion today, is projected to exceed 5 billion by 2015, according to the GSMA. More than 90% of these new subscribers are expected to come from emerging markets, with between 60% and 80% of them located in rural areas.
The vast majority of these remote areas have no access to electric grids. Diesel is widely used today to power generators in these regions. As diesel prices are soaring to their highest level in two years, energy expenditures have become among the top items contributing to higher expenses. There are over 500,000 telecom towers in India alone that depend on diesel generators when power is not available during the day.
In addition to searching for alternative energy sources that can be more cost effective over the long term, it is possible to use existing technology to tweak various elements of the base station to further improve on energy efficiency.
Energy efficient network design
When it comes to cutting down on energy bills, the best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently.
At the heart of an energy-efficient mobile network is good design. Using analytics to identify traffic patterns, especially high-bandwidth applications such as video, helps predict future trends to avoid bottlenecks for more effective capacity planning.
By measuring congestion at the application level, as well as measuring the overall capacity utilized, operators can reduce electricity consumption while enhancing quality of experience.
Once the necessary data is collected, network design starts with determining coverage, capacity, and quality needs. Operators must consider, for instance, whether to provide contiguous coverage or just spot coverage; whether congestion can be a problem and how to deal with it; and how important quality voice is. Simplifying network architecture and reducing the number of components that require power will enhance energy efficiency.
Network optimization for short-term results
In addition to efficient network design, using dynamic policy-based rules to optimize backhaul and transit capacity within the core network can enable operators to efficiently manage increasing amounts of traffic.
Network optimization enables operators to meet growing demand by sitting at the heart of the network, inspecting, identifying, and then optimizing mobile data traffic. Optimization is based on various parameters, including date and time, network congestion and subscriber information. Cell-based data optimization capabilities enable mobile operators to apply the most relevant optimization technique for each cell, limiting the need for frequent radio expansions.
Using network optimization to move less data through the network can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. In addition, more efficient bandwidth utilization can delay additional equipment purchases and avoid the associated costs to power and cool them, adding another level of energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency as positioning
Increasing energy efficiency makes good business sense regardless if the source of energy is diesel, electricity, or renewable energy. Even a more economical and “green” energy source can benefit from optimization.
However, ultimately the financial decision lies with the mobile operator’s capital investment strategy and positioning in the market long-term. For some mobile operators “going green” means more than just reducing the energy bill or decreasing their carbon footprint. It also has the potential to provide strong branding – a new way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
In addition to proving long-term benefits for the environment and reducing expenses, energy efficiency can build lasting customer loyalty by enabling operators to give back to the community.

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